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Seren Photonics wins £1.9m boost for HB-LED technology

29 May 2014

Welsh LED template wizards, who have significantly cut E-O conversion droop, get further funding injection, with more to come.

A £1.9m funding round backed by Finance Wales and IP Group will allow Bridgend-based Seren Photonics (seren is Welsh for star) to begin volume manufacture of its innovative materials for the rapidly expanding LED-based lighting market.

Seren Photonics’ revolutionary templates, developed by Prof Tao Wang from the University of Sheffield, have the potential to greatly increase the electro-optical efficiency of LEDs by significantly reducing "droop", a long-standing problem where gradually increasing applied currents are converted into heat instead of light.

The new templates also enable the manufacture of high intensity green LEDs, plugging the "green gap" that current materials fail to achieve, according to the company.

Godfrey Ainsworth, chairman of Seren, said, "Successful small-scale manufacture of the templates has been achieved on industry standard equipment and evaluation by Tier 1 manufacturers is under way. With this funding secured, cost-effective volume manufacture is achievable by the end of this year."

"The next two years will be exciting for Seren as we further our engagements with manufacturing partners and Tier 1 customers and ramp up production."

Technology

Seren’s technology is targeted at the large and fast-growing white light LED markets, such as back lighting for laptops, TVs and displays, as well as domestic and architectural lighting. This market is worth an estimated £7bn and is set to grow to £10bn by 2018, driven by global legislation aimed at phasing out incandescent lamps as well as energy conservation.

Seren’s new funding round raised a total of £1.9m from investors including FusionIP, IP Group and Finance Wales. The funding will be used to purchase key capital equipment and complete several pilot scale manufacturing cycles to supply the growing demand for Seren’s innovative templates.

Alan Aubrey, CEO of IP Group, commented, “Seren Photonics has made excellent progress in developing its gallium nitride (GaN) technologies. Both Fusion and IP Group are long-term investors in Seren and we will continue to support the company through its next phase of commercialization, including working with customers and scaling up with its manufacturing partners.”

Ann Casey, investment executive of technology venture investments team at Finance Wales, said: “Seren Photonics has made significant progress in developing its technology over the past few years and it has a clear understanding of its key markets, which are growing significantly as a result of changing legislation. This funding round is a significant boost for the company and will enable it to undertake further development and gear up for volume manufacturing.”

CEO interview

Optics.org interviewed Seren CEO Carl Griffiths about the recent investment and how he sees the company developing and addressing Seren’s target markets in the coming few years.

“Seren continues to make excellent progress and I am particularly excited by the new orientations of GaN on sapphire that Prof Wang and his group at Sheffield University have developed. These materials certainly have the potential to overcome some of the existing failings in conventional oriented GaN.

“It’s a real privilege to be so heavily involved in cracking the last fundamental technical hurdles faced by GaN and see it realize its full potential. The next two years will be very rewarding as we grow the company’s capacity.”

”This latest investment is the first half of a structured two-part funding round; we will receive around another £1.8 million in Q1, 2015. The main purpose of this funding is to transfer our technology to a manufacturing partner, who will make our LED templates and to enable us to work better with such manufacturers.

”One of Seren’s key aims is to stay independent so that we can remain open to as many market opportunities as possible. We are looking ultimately to subcontract our manufacturing to a volume epitaxy company, and to use a number of existing sapphire makers as a supply chain to the marketplace.”

"Seren currently has a staff of six, which will probably stay the same for the next nine to 12 months but I expect staffing to rise by recruiting some new PhDs and key account managers, next year, as our sales take off.

"Our technology is aimed at the cutting-edge Tier 1 manufacturers and we are already engaging with them. Ultimately it will filter into the Chinese market which is good at taking the cost out of manufacturing. I expect to be hitting this market in three to four years' time."

About the Author

Matthew Peach is a contributing editor to optics.org.

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